Wednesday 2 November 2016

Men of Mercy: Pope Francis Speaks to Priests

Men of Mercy: Pope Francis Speaks to Priests
Pope Francis
Giuseppe Merola (Editor)

Wellspring Publishing
Beacon Publishing for
Dynamic Catholic
ISBN 9781942611974
eISBN 9781929266807

This book is an incredible read.  For a few years now I have had a burden to be praying for priests I known and seminarians. This book is taking that to a whole new level. It is a collection of 49 talks, messages, homilies and lectures given by Pope Francis given between March 2013 and March of 2016. The messages are broken into six groups, but are by no way in chronological order.  Some are formal talks prepared and presented and some, Pope Francis deviates from his planned talk, and speaks off the cuff and we have a transcript of those adhoc presentations. Some of the messages are complete talks; some are excerpts as short as single impactful paragraph.

The shortest piece is an excerpt from an address to Austrian Bishops from January 30, 2014. The only piece of the talk shared with us is: "… Priests, parish priests, should always be aware that their duty to govern is a profoundly spiritual service. It is always the parish priest who guides the parish community, relying at the same time on the assistance and valid contribution of various co-workers and of all the faithful. However, we must not run the risk of blurring the sacramental ministry of the priest: In our cities and villages there are some courageous people and some timid ones; there are Christian missionaries and others who are asleep. And then there are many who are searching, even if they do not admit it. Everyone is called; everyone one is sent. However, the place where a person receives that call is not just the parish center, and the occasion is not necessarily a nice parish event. God's call can reach people on the assembly line and in the office, in the supermarket and on a stairway, i.e., in the places of everyday life. …"

The specific pieces in this book are:
Part One: Chrism Mass

With the Odor of the Sheep
Anointed with the Oil of Gladness
The Fatigue of Priests
Witnesses and Ministers of Mercy
Part Two: Meetings With Priests
Preparing to Preach
To Listen, to Walk, and to Proclaim to the Outskirts
The Priest Is a Man of Mercy and Compassion
The Joy of Being Priests
Share the Way of Pain of Jesus' Passion
The Ability of Open Oneself to Diocesan Life
Courageous Pastors in the Face of Difficulty and Trial
The Center of Life Must Be Jesus
All Pastoral Ministry Is Born of Love
True Happiness Comes from Helping Others
Everything Is Free
Witness to Healing and to Merciful Love
Perfect Like the Great Shepherd of the Sheep
Do Not Be Afraid of Poverty and of Mercy
Gratitude and Hard Work
Collaboration and Shared Responsibility
It Is the Lord Who Does the Work
Memory, Loyalty, and Prayer
Living the Anguish and Hope of the People
Witnesses of God's Neighborhood
One Learns to Pray, Just as One Learns to Live
Part Three: The Formation of Priests
Graduate Presbyters
A Great Interior Freedom
Conforming Ourselves More and More to Him
Remember Where You Were Taken From
A Mother Church
Pastoral Servants of God and Fathers of the People
Part Four: Meetings With The Bishops
Ministers Able to Warm the Hearts of the People
A Change of Attitude
Knowing Every Nook and Cranny of the Parish
Loving the Priests
Everybody Is Called, Everybody Is Sent
Close to Your Priests
Beware of Superficiality
Overseeing Formation
Caring for Priestly Vocations
The Essence of the Shepherd
Do Not Be Afraid of Transparency
Part Five: Christmas Greetings To The Roman Curia
Presentation of the Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia
The Roman Curia and the Body of Christ
A Catalog of Virtue
Part Six: Other Occasions
The Lord Is Like That
When Priests Do Not Make News
What Scandalizes the People
Meeting with Victims of Sexual Abuse

The book ends with his address in Philadelphia to the victims of sexual abuse. The final words are: "When the disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus recognized that He was the Risen Lord, they asked Jesus to stay with them. Like those disciples, I humbly beg you and all survivors of abuse to stay with us, to stay with the Church, and that together, as pilgrims on the journey of faith, we might find our way to the Father." And those words echo to all of us in the church and those who have wandered away, may be with Francis as the head of our church pilgrimage together on this path of faith to the father.

These messages were given to Priests to offer wisdom, and encouragement and some direction. But they also speak to priests about mercy, the mercy they receive, the mercy they need and they mercy they dispense. They are messages of joy, and of hope and are given from the heart, which is what we have come to expect from the man who lives joy and mercy. This was an incredibly powerful book. To see Pope Francis's love and concern for his fellow clergy, and through them the entrusted ministry to the whole church. I was moved to tears a few times while reading the book. And I was moved to pray on numerous occasions.

A wonderful read and will bring encouragement to even the hardest heart. Thank you.

(Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)

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